Everything I Do is Wrong
My inner critic is strong ya’ll. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the inner critic is the voice in your head that says nasty things like:
You’re not thin enough.
You don't make enough money.
You’ll never get that promotion, so don’t even bother.
Who do you think you are?
The inner critic is sneaky. The voice is like a quiet tape looping over and over again in the background so as to have an impact, but not be so obvious that you notice it and do something about it.
Over the years I have become more adept at recognizing my inner critic and reigning her in. But, sometimes I am caught off guard when I discover yet another way that she has been feeding me BS for quite some time. This was a big one.
Recently the loop that I discovered was a belief that everything I do is wrong. What other people were doing, buying, using, or saying is right or better. Now, let me clarify it wasn’t just anyone, I don’t care what the Kardashians are doing. Let me give you an idea of what I'm talking about:
1. My front loader washing machine smells no matter what I do. If the door is closed for any period of time, it stinks. Cue my inner critic: Clearly I am doing something wrong. Am I really such an idiot that I can’t figure out how to fix this? I’m sure other people’s washing machines don’t stink because they either just DON'T or because other people know what to do about it. You are so inept that you can’t even track down/fix the problem. (Ahem, this is going on despite trying multiple methods to get rid of the smell). Ugh.
2. I don’t like to cook. I suspect this, at least in part, has something to do with years of living with kids who are picky eaters. When dinner doesn’t turn out perfectly or someone complained about the meal I would internalize it as if something were wrong with me. My inner critic would tell me that other people make fabulous meals that no one complains about. I have girlfriends who put a pan on the stove and a scrumptious meal magically appears. Ok maybe I don’t actually believe that, but it seems effortless for them. For me every part of the planning, shopping, cooking experience is unpleasant.
3. My linen and entry closets look like bombs went off in them. I think my inner critic is sitting at the ready just waiting for me to open the door to either of them so she can pounce. As soon as I look inside she tells me how much I suck at organizing. I can’t keep things neat, I can’t find anything and when I do organize it the mess comes right back because I haven’t done it right.
4. In a casual conversation about make-up a friend shared an opinion that women should save their money on other products and just buy good mascara; that was where your money was best spent on good mascara. Hmmm...I tended to save my splurging for foundation because I have some areas I try to camouflage. The inner critic was whispering about how I don’t know anything about this girly stuff and she must be right. The result was that I was convinced that I now also needed to buy good mascara. That was going to test the boundaries of my drugstore make-up buying tendencies and budget.
These examples may seem trivial, but imagine that they are going on multiple times a day everyday around just about EVERYTHING. That is a good way to beat someone down, which is exactly what was happening.
I am not incapable of critical thinking. I have a master’s degree in a health science field, I can see flaws in a study, I can have an intelligent conversation or debate about current events or politics. But, in my personal inner critic arena I could not see the forest for the trees. I didn’t question my friend’s opinion or why it might be true for her that she needed good mascara but maybe not for me. Why? Because for my whole life my inner critic has told me I am less than, not as good as or don’t measure up. Everything I do is wrong. So I bought new mascara. If I was always wrong, she had to be right.
Imagine what this kind of chatter does to me regarding matters that are higher stakes, say around what my parenting looks like or my career. I would hear women talk about what they were doing with or for their kids and my less than/not good enough undercurrent became a tsunami.
You’ve heard a million times that awareness is the first step. Here is one million and one. Once I noticed the triggers I started seeing them everywhere in my life and I got to work shining a light on them and unraveling/untangling myself from them. Finding kinder more supportive thoughts to replace the brutal ones. Things are so much better now. And I’m proud to say that the triggers around parenting-which is such a vulnerable topic for many of us-has improved drastically. If I can make changes there, I can take on anything the little bugger has up her sleeve. And she does, I am a work in progress.
How about you? Can you see that the voice inside your head is holding you back? Where does it show up? It might feel like fear, apprehension, comparison, not good enough etc. Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what you are uncovering.